In the wake of a stunning $400 million loss following the failed Voice Referendum, anger and frustration are bubbling to the surface as politicians and the public grapple with the fallout.
The referendum, which aimed to establish an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, faced a resounding defeat over the weekend, sending shockwaves through the nation.
The referendum, which aimed to establish a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous Voice to Parliament, is expected to fall short of the required majority, dealing a significant blow to the government’s efforts.
While the official announcement of the results by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is a few days away, it appears highly improbable that the country will achieve the necessary majority for the referendum to succeed.
Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek faced some tough questions during an appearance on Seven’s Sunrise from host Natalie Barr following the “dismal” outcome.
“How did the government get this so wrong?” Barr asked.
“Well I think we need to take a bit of time to consider what happened here,” Plibersek replied.
“We need to take a little bit of time to examine the fallout here and think about a constructive way forward. I don’t think Saturday night’s result was a vote against progress to close the gap, I think it was against the particular proposition. Most Australians agree that we need to do better.”
“It was a wipe-out,” Barr hit back.
“So what do you learn from that, $400 million down the drain on something people said No?”
While Plibersek agreed it was a “very disappointing result” she argued that “there is still a lot of goodwill in the Australian people to close the gap”.
“It is important to take a little bit of time and just let the dust settle, to really think through out next steps to make sure we are working in a way that brings Australians together to reduce disadvantage in this country,” she explained.
Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce didn’t share Plibersek’s optimism, slamming the government for what he labelled a “divisive debacle”.
Joyce argued that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had misjudged the sentiment outside of his inner suburban seat of Grayndler. Inner-city seats and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) voted in favor of the referendum, while the rest of the country, as Joyce put it were more concerned “about the price of power, the price of their food and groceries.”
“It wasn’t a surprise, it was given to him by polls,” he said.
“He was listening to his own echo chamber, he wasn’t listening to the Australian people.”
Following the significant shortfall in votes in favour of the Voice to Parliament Alabanese’s opponents have seized the opportunity to direct their criticism toward the Prime Minister, some calling for his resignation.
Sky News host Andrew Bolt was among the first to call for the PM to step down, questioning “how he can continue” in the role.
“He’s put us through this nightmare and wasted nearly $400 million of taxpayers money, putting Australians at each other’s throats,” he said.
“And unfortunately the poison from all this will survive.”
South Australian Opposition Leader David Speirs claimed Albanese should resign given “the damage he has done to our country and to the very fabric of what it means to be Australian”, labelling it “heartbreaking”.
“The prime minister should think about his future. I don’t think he will resign but there are international precedents there,” Spiers added.
While Opposition Leader Peter Dutton stopped short of calling for the Prime Minister’s resignation, he did voice his criticism of Albanese’s handling of the referendum.
“What we’ve seen tonight is Australians literally in their millions reject the prime minister’s divisive referendum,” Dutton said.
“The prime minister clearly was not across the detail, and he refused to explain or answer reasonable questions from Australians.
“He has held the pen of this definitive chapter in our nation’s history, and if he has any strength in his leadership, he must take responsibility for it.”
Despite continued criticism and the outcome of the vote, Albanese is showing no signs of slowing down, reaffirming his commitment to “seek better outcomes for Indigenous Australians and their children and generations to come”.
Together we must take our country beyond this debate – without forgetting why we had it in the first place. Because a great nation like ours can and must do better for the First Australians.
Our government will continue to listen to people and to communities. pic.twitter.com/3IMTkkTlG1
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) October 14, 2023
Albanese expressed that, although it wasn’t the outcome he had anticipated, he “respects” the choice made by the Australian electorate.
“Just as the Uluru Statement from the Heart was an invitation extended with humility, grace and optimism for the future, tonight we must meet this result with the same grace and humility,” he said.
“When you do the hard things, when you aim high, sometimes you fall short. And tonight we acknowledge, understand and respect that we have.”